When my wife and I began editing Yellowhammer News four months ago, we promised to always “tell the truth, even when it hurts, and especially when it’s unpopular.”
We wrote that because we believe honesty is a virtue to be constantly pursued, not only in journalism, but also in every profession and aspect of life. And when found, it should be celebrated, not censured, as an alarming 42 percent of the attendees at the recent statewide meeting of the Alabama Republican Party wanted to do.
The group pushed a resolution denouncing Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Tuscaloosa, for saying he couldn’t support the candidacy of someone who many fair-minded Alabamians believed was credibly accused of having been a serial sexual harasser of young women.
Thankfully, 58 percent of our party’s members at the meeting voted to “indefinitely postpone” consideration of the measure.
But why so much residual anger at someone for simply being honest?
When Shelby was asked about the race shortly before the election, the senator said he “couldn’t vote for Roy Moore” and instead would write-in the name of a “distinguished Republican” on the ballot.
Shelby, like many others (some who only spoke in hushed anonymity or avoided comment altogether), believed in his heart that Moore would have done more harm to Alabama than good. So instead of sheepishly avoiding the question, he answered truthfully and therefore, in doing so with full knowledge of the coming backlash, acted courageously.
Isn’t that what we seek from our elected representatives?
But because Shelby spoke honestly, supporters of the recent failed resolution blame him for Moore’s defeat.
Having a single senator tell the truth wasn’t what sunk Moore’s candidacy. The judge lacked a coherent communication strategy and failed to seriously campaign for the job.
That’s it. Period.
Three quick yet telling examples:
— During the final crucial days of the campaign when Moore should have been busy getting seen by voters in the most populated areas, he chose to only appear at rural churches and a couple of out-of-the-way rallies. (As a contrast, Donald Trump held five rallies a day in key battleground areas in the run up to his victory. That’s how it’s done.)
— Instead of deploying campaign spokesmen to overwhelm local talk radio and television speaking to actual Alabama voters, they were wasted with interviews on national television with the likes of Anderson Cooper and Jake Tapper. Why? Their viewers in New York City weren’t voting in our election.
— Yellowhammer News even offered the judge’s campaign as much room on our website as they’d like to make their case, out of fairness since I wrote some pieces critical of Moore. Did they take advantage of that opportunity? No.
Had the judge aggressively campaigned in those final weeks – getting out and talking with voters, speaking directly to them, bypassing the media – he’d have easily made up the 22,000 votes he lost by.
But … if some wish to ignore those hard lessons and give Shelby credit for stopping a runaway train from crashing into the Senate and taking Alabama’s interests down with it, then fine.
For my part, I thank Shelby for having courage and telling “the truth, even when it hurts, and especially when it’s unpopular.”
Shelby swatted away this controversy like an annoying fly. His years of service and leadership have given him the power and influence to do so with ease.
Meanwhile, those of us coming up in our state’s conservative movement should take heart, and take a lesson, from Shelby’s stance.
And keep on telling the truth.
(Image: Senator Richard Shelby/Facebook)